With the increasing remote working trends in today’s digital age, virtual meetings have become integral to business and social communication. For people with disabilities, these virtual meetings on digital platforms can sometimes pose accessibility challenges.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 16% of the world's population lives with some form of disability, making it crucial to provide more user-friendly solutions. So, join us as we dive into the accessibility features and challenges of some leading digital platforms, starting with Zoom. Through a series of informative guides, we will explore how these companies work to make their websites more accessible to all users.
In this guide, we will look at Zoom's accessibility features and share tips on how to make your Zoom meetings more accessible.
Zoom’s Commitment to Accessibility
Zoom has become a popular tool for remote work, online classes, and virtual hangouts. But have you ever wondered if all of its features provide equal access to everyone? The good news is that this virtual meeting software is committed to making its platform inclusive for all users.
The company states on its accessibility page: “Accessibility is at the heart of what we do.” It describes its commitment to accessibility: “Zoom puts users front and center, driving inclusivity for everyone. We listen to our customers and continually seek ways to build the best, most accessible communications experience.”
Zoom Feature Accessibility: A Closer Look
Zoom has a variety of features that make it easy for people with disabilities to participate fully in online meetings, including:
Zoom offers closed captioning for meetings, which is incredibly helpful for people with hearing impairment. The captioning can be automated or done by a live captioner, depending on your needs. You can adjust the size of the closed captioning text to make it easier to read.
It also has keyboard shortcuts that can be used instead of a mouse, making it more accessible for people with motor disabilities. And for people with visual impairments, Zoom has screen reader support and the ability to adjust font sizes and colors.
One cool feature is Zoom's virtual background option, which can be helpful for people who have visual distractions in their environment or who just want a little extra privacy.
Screen Reader Support
Zoom is compatible with popular screen readers such as VoiceOver, NVDA, and JAWS, allowing visually impaired users to participate in meetings.
High Contrast Mode
Users can switch to high contrast mode, making the interface easier for people with low vision or color blindness.
This feature allows the user to pin the video of the speaker they want to focus on, making it easier to follow along with the conversation. Blurring the video background helps minimize visual distractions during meetings and makes it easier to focus on the speaker.
Besides closed captioning, Zoom offers an audio transcription feature that creates a real-time written transcript of the meeting.
This feature automatically transcribes voicemail messages into text format, making it easier for users who are deaf or hard of hearing to access and understand voicemail messages.
There’s an option to format text in the chat feature, making reading messages easier for users with visual impairments.
This feature changes the background of Zoom's interface to black, which can be helpful for users with visual impairments or sensitivity to bright light.
Host Can Mute/Unmute Participants (With Consent)
This feature allows the host of a meeting to mute and unmute participants' audio, which can be helpful for users with hearing impairments or to minimize background noise during a meeting.
Tips To Make Zoom Meetings More Accessible
Making sure that virtual meetings are as inclusive as possible is important, especially as more and more people are now using them to connect. Zoom is a great tool that can bring people together, but it's important to keep accessibility in mind. Here are some tips and tricks for ensuring everyone can easily participate in Zoom meetings.
Use Closed Captioning
Provide closed captioning for all meetings so that participants with hearing impairments can follow along.
Share Materials In Advance
Send materials like agendas and presentation slides to participants in advance to give them more time to review and prepare.
Use A Clear Background
A clear and uncluttered background helps participants focus on what's being said and makes it easier for people with visual impairments to follow along.
Use A Microphone
Use a high-quality microphone to ensure everyone can hear you clearly, and encourage them to use a microphone.
Allow For Breaks
Take regular breaks to give participants time to stretch, rest their eyes, and take a break from their screens.
Use Plain Language
Use plain language when speaking or presenting. In other words, avoid technical jargon or complex language (as much as possible) that can be difficult for some participants to understand.
Provide Alternative Formats
When sharing visual materials during a Zoom meeting, provide alternative formats to ensure accessibility for those with visual impairments. This could include providing audio descriptions of images, videos, or text transcripts of any written content.
Spotlight the ASL Interpreters
When recording a Zoom video session with an ASL interpreter, don't forget to use the "Spotlight" feature so the ASL is captured. Only meeting hosts can access this feature. It will ensure that the interpreter's video is the main focus during the recording, making it easier for individuals who rely on ASL to access the content later.
Share Keyboard Shortcuts
Before a meeting, share the Zoom Keyboard Shortcuts with participants, especially those using keyboard-only navigation or assistive technology. This will help in case the mouse suddenly stops working.
Zooming In on Accessibility: Enhancing the Meeting Experience for All
Zoom has made significant strides in offering accessibility features that cater to users with different types of disabilities. From closed captioning and keyboard shortcuts to virtual backgrounds and advanced screen reader capabilities, many tools are available to help make Zoom meetings barrier-free for everyone.
These features are only a starting point; we can always do more to make online conferences truly convenient for everyone. By implementing the tips discussed in this guide, we can all work towards creating a more welcoming virtual environment for all participants.